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Christie's Denials Don't Squelch Candidacy Rumors

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Will Chris Christie run or not?

Rumors have been flying faster than ever about whether the New Jersey governor will go after the Republican nomination for president. And Christie didn't do much to put an end to the speculation during an appearance Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Christie has said he's not running for president before — he's been governor only since 2010, he doesn't feel ready, it's not in his heart. Then came the reports in the last couple of days that he'd been meeting again with major GOP powerbrokers.

That was good news for Joe Capezza, who came to hear Christie speak in Simi Valley.

"I think he'd make an outstanding candidate. He brings a fresh perspective to government, and he's a no-nonsense type of governor," Capezza said. "Hope he'll reconsider. I still hold out hope ... I'm the eternal optimist."

When Christie took the stage, he praised Ronald Reagan as a role model and talked about how America can't lead the world unless the country pulls together to solve problems. Most of all, he said he believed in telling the people the uncomfortable truth — which he had plenty of chances to do when he took questions after the speech.

But when someone in the crowd asked whether he'd changed his mind about running in 2012, the governor merely joked that it took the audience until the second question to get to the point. Then he referred to a nearly 2-minute montage of his many previous denials compiled by Politico.

His answer wasn't enough for some supporters.

"My Italian mother, she told me to tell you that you gotta run for president," said a woman in the audience, a New Jersey transplant.

Another woman thought begging might work.

"I really implore you as a citizen of this country to reconsider. I wouldn't expect you to say anything now – go home and think about it."

Christie's appeal to Republicans is undeniable: He's charismatic, blunt, even confrontational. He's pushed through changes to public employee benefits and a cap on property taxes, both of which are popular with conservatives.

But the clamor for him to throw his hat in the presidential ring isn't all about him, said former GOP communications consultant Dan Schnur.

"There wouldn't be this kind of speculation about a Christie candidacy of Perry hadn't run into his recent troubles," Schnur said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry became the Republican frontrunner right after he got into the presidential race. But then he performed shakily in three debates and disappointed conservatives with his stance on illegal immigration. Former frontrunner Mitt Romney remains popular with much of the party establishment, but Schnur said that's not enough these days.

"Previous establishment candidates were favored by party hierarchy, and grassroots ultimately fell into line. Well, the Republican party grassroots, the Tea Party and other activist organizations are much stronger and influential," he said.

So the GOP presidential field remains unsettled. That means that rumors will probably continue to swirl around a possible Christie candidacy — and his fans are clearly not ready to take no for an answer.

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